Twitter’s been criticized for dragging its feet to punish accounts that violate its Terms of Service. But instead of having failed to stop harassment or death threats, this time the social network may have allowed a Russian government troll to flourish on its platform.
The account is known as @TEN_GOP. It was created in November 2015 and amassed about 136,000 followers as it sent out tweets about unarmed black men killed by police, according to a report in BuzzFeed. In one instance, it also included a picture purportedly of a crowd waiting to see then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speak that was actually a parade for the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
But what was most notable about @TEN_GOP is that it was created by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-government affiliated troll farm, according to BuzzFeed, citing a Russian news report.
Twitter was warned “repeatedly” about the account, including from Candice Dawkins, the actual Tennessee GOP’s spokeswoman, who told BuzzFeed the fake account was not affiliated with her office. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company does not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.
The news comes as social media companies face increasing scrutiny for their role in the spread of misinformation and divisive posts from Russia-affiliated accounts around the time of the 2016 presidential election. On Wednesday, two US Senators say they will introduce bipartisan legislation that would require political ads placed in social media to meet the same requirements as similar ads on TV, radio and newspapers.
Twitter, Facebook and Google are set to be questioned by Congress about Russian-bought ads on their platforms that may have influenced the election.
Facebook said that it has turned over 3,000 Russian-linked ads that were seen by 10 million people to congressional intelligence committees. Twitter said it discovered 201 Russian accounts connected to the Facebook ads. Google reportedly found that Russians paid for tens of thousands of dollars on ads appearing on YouTube, Gmail and Google search.
The companies are expected to testify before Congress on Nov. 1.
CNET reporter Laura Hautala contributed to this report.
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